The Intercession for Priests started at All Hallows College in 1976 in response to the great upheaval in the priesthood in the years following Vatican II. It was a critical time for priests and many were deciding to leave the priesthood. The rest of us were trying to come to terms with the nature and demands of priestly ministry.
Even then, it seemed to me that the problems were not of the kind that would be resolved by human means. When I heard of a programme in the United States called the “Intercession for Priests” it struck me that something like this was just what was needed. Having advertised it, I was disappointed at the poor response. I went to see Bishop Dermot O’Mahoney and asked him what I should do. The answer he gave me struck me as somehow prophetic. He said; “even if there are only two of you”, begin. Well, as it turned out, there were twelve of us with some lay people and Sr. Briege McKenna, O.S.C.. This was on the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, July 16th, 1976. Over the more than forty years, thousands of priests have taken part in it from all over Ireland and from places very, very far away. Its impact on my own life has been incomparable, as I know it has on the lives of many, many priests. Only the Lord knows how effective the prayers and intercessions, of so many, have been for the spiritual renewal of the priesthood.
Why has it lasted so long?
The Lord alone knows. I think it is because it has provided for many priests, a rock, a place of security where they can come and feel at home in their priesthood. It is a familiar place where psalms are sung and heard in a new way; where the divine therapist is encountered in the forgiveness of sin and the binding up of wounds; where there are no games and you don’t have to be careful about what you say; where you can pray with and for each other. Perhaps it is all these things that draws so many us to come here year after year.
I thank the Father of all. I thank Jesus, our Eternal High Priest. I thank the Holy Spirit who never fails to teach us. I thank the Mother of God who is always present with us. I thank you for coming faithfully. I thank my Vincentian Superiors and confreres for their gentle approval and support. I especially thank the core group whose fidelity is beyond compare. I thank the countless brothers and sisters who have joined us each weekend and each year at Knock to pray for their priests. And, of course, I thank Sr. Briege McKenna, O.S.C.. Providentially, Sr. Briege came to see me for the first time on that fateful 16th of July. Her love for the Church and for the priesthood was then, as now, unconditional. Her gift of ministering to priests was even more striking, as so many of us have come to know.
I pray that the future of the Intercession for Priests will be as blessed as its past and that it will continue to be a source of strength and grace for many priests in the years to come.
[written by the late Fr. Kevin Scallon, CM – † 25 June 2018)